First Lady reconstructs history of her husband’s childhood struggles
posted at 10:55 am on October 3, 2011 by Howard Portnoy
Covering a recent $2,500-a-plate luncheon in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, ABC reports that Michelle Obama (aka, the president’s “secret campaign weapon”) told 100 donors that her husband deserves re-election not only for his first-term accomplishments but because he “knows what it means when a family struggles”:
He understands these issues, not just because he’s smart but because he’s lived them.
He was raised by a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. And when she needed help, who stepped in? His grandmother, waking up early every morning to take a bus to her job at the bank.
Then Mrs. Obama excused herself because she had to get over to Target before the sale on economy-sized boxes of cornflakes ended.
The First Lady’s sob story, such as it is, is not the first fictional tale of personal hardship she has spun. During her husband’s presidential campaign she made similar claims about her own upbringing, telling voters,”I was raised in a working-class family on the south Side of Chicago. That’s how I identify myself, a working-class girl.”
But that’s not how one of her long-time friends, Angela Acree, remembered her to Sharon Churcher of The Mail:
Michelle was from a middle-class family.
She came from a regular family. They had a nice home. It wasn’t a mansion, but it was just fine. It was a decent neighbourhood.
Adds Churcher, who paid a visit to the house where Michelle LaVaughn Robinson was raised:
Instead of the one-room tenement that now appears in most accounts of her upbringing, we found a well-kept neighbourhood of red-brick Arts and Craft-style houses which have long been home to respectable black families.
And what about her husband’s own childhood—his grandmother getting on a bus every morning to go to work (oh, the humanity!) or his single mother struggling to make ends meet? According to Obama’s own half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama’s mother sent him to Honolulu at age 10 to stay with his maternal grandparents. She remained behind in Indonesia to complete her dissertation on peasant blacksmithing in Java.
The neighborhood in Honolulu where Obama was raised, Makiki, is described as “unassuming” but not impoverished. Honolulu historian and archivist DeSoto Brown wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Obama’s neighbors “were mostly store clerks, restaurant workers and small business owners—many aspiring to government jobs.” (Not unlike the future president himself!)
In vivid contrast to either Obama’s make-believe poverty are the real-life experiences of Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET). Johnson, who appeared yesterday on Fox News Sunday, told host Chris Wallace:
I grew up in a family of 10 kids, first one to go to college, and I’ve earned my success. I’ve earned my right to fly private if I choose to do so. And by attacking me, is not going to convince me that I should take a bigger hit because I happen to be wealthy.
Johnson also had some advice for the president, who he said “should recalibrate his message,” adding, “You don’t get people to like you by attacking them or demeaning their success.”
It would seem as though the president’s better half could benefit as well from Johnson’s cautionary tale.
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